Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Freedom of speech -- up to a point
When Pam Geller and Robert Spencer held the Garland event (in May of last year), and it was attacked by Muslim jihadists (fortunately stopped cold in their tracks by Texas law enforcement), Donald Trump blurted out his hamfistedly plain-spoken reaction:
“I watched Pam earlier, and it really looks like she’s just taunting everybody. What is she doing drawing Muhammad? I mean it’s disgusting. Isn’t there something else they could be doing? Drawing Muhammad?…They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? It’s probably very risky for her — I don’t know, maybe she likes risk? But what the hell is she doing?”
Robert Spencer has been reminding his readers of this for months, right up until recently, as evidence that Trump fails to grasp a crucial facet of the principle of free speech -- a lapse which becomes acutely wrongheaded when it is so directly linked to the problem of Islam -- namely, that a violent reaction to speech or expression is always wrong, and the blame should never be shifted onto the one exercising his free speech or expression.
Notwithstanding that in the year after Garland Trump has made statements unprecedented for an American Presidential candidate -- statements which the Counter-Jihad has been thirsting for in the bleak desert of a politically correct landscape for years -- Spencer continues to harp on Garland. As I pointed out in my previous essay, Things that are supposed to trump Trump, I agree with Spencer that Trump's Garland gaffe is inexcusable and by itself disqualifies one from being a worthy Presidential candidate. Where I seem to disagree with Spencer (and many of his loyalists), is in my appreciation -- accounting for the new data of Trump's moratorium on Muslim immigration and his statement that "Islam hates us" -- of the elementary principle of "Trump's not perfect but he's the best we've got" coupled with the crucial corollary "If we don't do something about the problem of Islam, our society will be destroyed". Apparently, Spencer and his loyalists disagree with one or more parts of this elementary principle and its corollary. In that case, why they continue to claim to be in and of the Counter-Jihad (rather than some Safely Mainstream Counter-Extremist Islamist Terrorism Task Force) is a mystery.
At any rate, I recently stumbled upon -- or was reminded of -- an incident harking back to 2008 where Spencer expressed virtually the same reaction -- sans the hamfistedness -- to a free expression against Islam as Trump did to Garland. The incident in question was the alleged case of an American soldier in Iraq using the Koran for target practice -- and the consequent, unsurprising uproar this caused in the Muslim world (see my detailed discussion at the time on this).
Not only did Spencer call the soldier's action "unfortunate", he went on to say:
If he knew what the book was, the soldier was stupid, because even if it is true that the Qur'an contains mandates for violence against unbelievers, and it is true, doing something like this will only turn into enemies some people who might otherwise not be your enemies.
How is that a different sentiment, in essence and other than superficially, from what Trump said about Geller and Garland?